All is calm, tonight.

My dear friend Tamara, writer of the terrific blog, This Sacramental Life asked me tonight how Day 1 of Daddy’s-week-long-absence-fun-times is going. To start, we woke up at 5:30 am and threw Lucy in the car at 6:00 am to get Pete to the airport on time. If Lucy were a sullen teenager, she would recognize this time as a golden opportunity to ignore one’s parents and sleep in the dark backseat. Instead, she is a constantly curious toddler and these times provide a seat-belted and captive audience for comments about kitties, strange noises, the size (BIG!) of passing semi-trucks and trailers and for the counting of streetlights. Note that she can only count to eight, and it’s really only seven because she never remembers poor number five. So, she didn’t sleep enough. Never a good way to start a kid’s day.

The rest of the day was easy enough, but I knew that dinner and bedtime would present the most significant challenges. Don’t they always, anyway? So, we managed a grocery shop, after which I got super creative and whipped up an Annie’s Mac & Cheese and frozen pea feast of toddler champions for the girl, and sat her down across from me with a block of cheese and a grater to pile on the cheddar as she ate. It’s not an exaggeration to say that she may have eaten one or two slivers of cheese and a single pea. I ate the rest of that magnificent meal alone while she ran around feeding her stuffed animals invisible food. Steak tartare, perhaps? Oh, I forgot that later she did also eat part of a bath crayon that had been floating in the tub, so I guess that counts for something?

Be warned, I’m going to get a little more serious from here on out.

Once I put Lucy down for bedtime, she did not want to be left alone. This isn’t that uncommon, she usually has a little sniffle, whine or squeal before passing out. So it went tonight, but then, for some reason, 10 minutes after I’d closed the door, she was verging on hysterical. Not like her at all. Something felt wrong, so I went back to her room. She was standing, with tears running down her red-hot face, screaming for me.

What to do? I didn’t know. I just started praying. Pete and I have talked to Lucy about Jesus and every night we sing the Doxology over Lucy. I’ve always felt like there was power in doing these things, but I especially sensed the need for it tonight. As soon as I began to pray, she quieted. She stood for a moment and then sat down, clutching her blankie, just listening to me talk to Jesus. She was so still and calm, it actually shocked me. Then I heard a familiar refrain drifting in from the hallway. My Pandora station for Lu’s bed time is “Heavenly Lullabies” or something cheesy like that. Well, this wasn’t Brahms or Beethoven for babies, it was good, old “Silent Night”.

No, it’s not Christmas. Yes, it’s early for a carol, but that’s exactly why it was so perfect. “Silent Night” has always been one of my favourite (yes, I’m still Canadian) carols. Partly because it’s the one we usually end Christmas Eve services with; our hundreds of candle flames flickering under the gentle breath of believers and those who want to believe, and partly because it is such a sweetly simple song about the Saviour’s birth. I’ve heard people crack jokes about how silly it is that we should sing a song about silence in reference to the coming of God’s son, as a human infant, to a human mother labouring without anesthesia, a baby certainly fragile, possibly struggling to nurse and most likely crying. I get that the song may seem, to our 21st century ears, to be projecting a false image of perfection on that night. I get all of this and it doesn’t change what happened for Lucy tonight.

As I sang along, and then repeated the song again, it sounded perfect to me. The song is speaking about the peace that only God can impart, and that maybe, only children can accept so quickly and without question. A peace that transcends anything I can offer, even as a mother, to my fearful child. A peace that so powerfully meets us in our confusion and lack of understanding. A peace that causes us, like Lucy, to quiet, sit down, rest in it and finally, to sleep in total safety and reassurance.

“Sleep in heavenly peace.

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

This Mama’s Thoughts on “How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body.”

The entrance of our little dude into the world and keeping him fed, changed and happy has kept me sufficiently busy of late, so it feels a bit trivial to break my long blogging silence over something like this, but here I am.

I’ve seen this Huffpost Parents link shared on Facebook by many friends today. The post was originally published here.

I can see why the message of this post has struck a chord and resonated with so many women. I believe that our culture is overly focused on, even obsessed with women’s weight and appearance. It is right to be frustrated that we as women, even mothers, contribute to this warped perception of beauty in our culture. But while I think I understand the writer’s message and good intentions, I’m not totally sold on her proposed method.

After a quick first read, I found all of the commands and emphatic statements causing me to wince a bit, and I was soon googling the writer’s name to see if she is some kind of authority or at least a pop psychologist of sorts. No, she’s not. And yet she begins,

“Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works. …

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that.”

Well, gee. I often tell my toddler-aged daughter that she’s beautiful and that she has a beautiful body. She freely runs around the house in her diaper, telling us “I’m very big and strong!” Yes, I know that she’s young and has yet to experience rejection and criticism based on her appearance. When these things come, and they likely will, I’ll still be the uncool mom who tells her, “You have such a beautiful body, sweetie.”

Why bother telling her this? Why not, as the writer suggests, just tell her how healthy she looks? Here’s why. Because when I look at her I see the beauty of creation. When I tell her she is beautiful, I’m not talking about the kind of beauty that sells magazines. I’m talking about the beauty of a healthy, strong and changing form, growing in the way it should; a body that enables her to run and dance and explore; a body that, when cared for, serves her well.

Another comment from this post that struck me as odd was this,

“Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.”

A woman who isn’t quite strong enough to move large pieces of furniture by herself is no less of a strong woman. I can’t move my dining room table without hurting my back. I hurt it quite badly, in fact, trying to move it by myself. Just as the writer argues that there shouldn’t be “shame over what you eat”, I would argue there’s no shame in recognizing that your physical body has certain limitations. Certainly men’s bodies do also. Let’s not pretend that our bodies don’t matter in that way or that bodies are only vessels for our souls. Our outward appearance is a large part of what makes us unique and how we are recognized by others. That matters.

It seems to me that this article was likely written in reaction to something hurtful that happened in the writer’s life. I’m sorry that she feels that so many women (and probably men) interact with their daughters in such unhealthy ways.

If my daughter’s experience is anything like mine, as she grows older she will encounter plenty of stereotypes about beauty and how her body should look. My hope is that she would, in times of insecurity or self-doubt, remember that her body is not only a vessel to “mobilize” her lovely soul and strong spirit, but that it is wondrous in its intricacy and powerful in its ability and that being able to look at it and say “I’m beautiful” is still a truly empowering thing.

About to welcome a Texan.

In just over two weeks, we Canadian-born Coelhos will be celebrating the arrival of our first American family member! Why make a big deal out of the citizenship of our new babe? Well, we’re a bit of a mixed bag already. My husband and daughter both have dual Canadian/Portuguese citizenship. I am just a plain Canuck and my son will be both an American citizen as well as a Canadian.

Not only is the little guy going to be an American; he’s going to be a Texan! Woah, pardner. That’s an intense thought! I have only the slightest inkling (born of only one year living in the Lone Star State) of what it means to grow up as a Texan.

I grew up in the Yukon. That’s about as far away from Texas as you can get without falling off the continent. Some of my fondest and most vivid childhood memories include tipping canoes into icy cold lakes, licking frozen doorknobs (no, I did not think that through, and yes, I lost a few taste buds when I yanked my tongue off), dodging horse manure bombs thrown by my rugrat buddies and hiding in chilly caves carved into 6 foot snow drifts. Y’all, that ain’t Texas!

Lucy and her little brother won’t have the same connection to small town Canadiana that I still treasure, but I bet, when they’re my age they’ll have some pretty wonderful memories. Here’s what I imagine for them:

The sweet smell of sunscreen, hot summers at the local pool, stealing shade from generous Live Oak trees, the smoke of brisket on the barbecue, strings of lights in backyards on summer nights, crickets singing and fireflies flashing in flower beds.

Dusty baseball games and dirty knees, football lights on Friday nights, two-stepping and square-dancing in cowboy boots and hats (pink for Lucy!), tossing random Spanish into conversations and chowing on breakfast tacos, chips and queso.

I expect they’ll grow up saying “golly” and “all y’all“. They’ll call me “mama” and might refer to strangers as “ma’am” and “sir”.

And I like that when they’re back in Canada, people will recognize them as different. Not just because of the football, barbecue and rodeos, but because the Texan culture will seep from their tiny pores.

What is it that I enjoy most about Texan culture so far?

Texans are friendly. They literally tip their hat to you and say “Mornin’!” with genuine smiles. They’re not afraid to engage you in a conversation in the grocery store parking lot.

They hug you! They hug a lot. I’m still working on getting my “hug on” here without feeling awkward.

Texans have a pioneer spirit, much like Yukoners, actually. They strike out and try new things and expect to enjoy new experiences. They don’t stand back and hum and haw (or snicker and sneer) until opportunity passes in the same way we Northwestern city folk often do.

Many Texans exude a positivity and optimism that I admire. They seem less cynical and suspicious of other people’s motivations.

Those are some characteristics I certainly wouldn’t mind my kids picking up. I know they’ll still have plenty of Canadian traits to set them apart here. One thing’s for sure; they’ll have a pair of cowboy boots AND a pair of ice skates and they’ll wear them both with pride.

“This is sad face.” How do kids know these things?

 

Sadly, one of my few take-aways from my four years of university as a Communication major, is a statistic my profs threw around: 90% of our communication is non-verbal. Only 10% of what we communicate to others is actually spoken in words. I’m choosing not to ponder the fact that I spent nearly $40,000 on classes and lectures and essays I barely remember, and instead, I’m going to let that tremendous bummer slide for the moment. Instead I’m stuck thinking about how,while one could argue the exact percentage (90? 75?) is ultimately unknowable, there’s a large amount that I’ve said without actually saying it!

My most recent examples always seem to stem from my life as a mom. Surprise, surprise! This is what happens when you hang out with a toddler for 12 hours a day. That’s a lot of time for verbalizing and non-verbalizing to take place. I’ve congratulated myself, many times, for not “losing it” and saying what I’m really thinking about my child’s phobia of clothes and any food other than granola, her daily tantrums, her shoves and constant, unwitting attempts to destroy my iPhone. I’ve admittedly said things I regret already, but I usually try to keep my frustrations well sealed; safely bottled under an emotionless expression. Clearly, I do not have this down.

Lucy totally outed me the other day. She had just finished a 10 minute whine-and-cry-fest and I had shoved some granola at her hoping she would eat something and snap out of it. It kind of worked! I made the mistake of asking her if she wanted yogurt with her granola. She responded with a hearty “NO!!! No like it, granola!!!” and a sour expression she seemed to have practiced. I thought my response of saying, “Okay, you don’t have to eat it.” was all I had communicated to her. A few minutes later she walked up to me and asked, “Mommy, what you doing?” and when I bent down to answer her, she gently cradled my face in her little palms and said, “This is sad face.” Huh? What? How the heck did she know I was feeling bummed about her crankiness? I told her, “Well, Mommy’s just sad because you were upset for a long time.” To which she again pointed out, “This is sad face.” Yeah. You’re right, kid. I am sad. I guess I’m not so great at keeping my cool after all.

I could take this as a sign that I should work that much harder at communicating only grace, gentleness and self-control; all good things to express. Yes, I’d like my child to experience all of those in relating with me. However, I also think it’s okay for her to see my sad face, my angry face, my disappointed face and even my tired face. I want her to know I’m human. I also want her to know that what she does affects others. Her sadness, her blow-ups and upsets affect me too and I hope, that when she experiences me, feeling difficult emotions, that she will respond in compassion. Maybe it’s more important that she learn compassion in these hard times than learn that mommy is a rock and isn’t at all bothered or frustrated by them.

Interestingly enough, I think she’s already displayed signs of being a compassionate individual. She is quick to say “Sorry” (not just because she’s a Canadian!) and quick to seek out reconciliation or to comfort. After a recent cry-fest of my own, one that I uselessly tried to keep under wraps by boo-hooing in a far corner of my room (so as not to alarm her, duh!??), she came to me and rubbed my shoulder, stroked my face and climbed into my lap, saying “Oh dear. Mommy is sad.” I love this kid! These are the precious moments you get to cherish as a parent. And they sometimes only come about because of messy, ugly moments. We mess things up and our kids don’t just learn we’re human and life is messy, they learn how to respond to someone who needs a little extra love and care. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a comforting thought.

What runaway bunnies teach us about love.

Children’s books. They range for the weird and wonderful (Any Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle or Richard Scarry for instance) to the bland but functional (Baby’s First Word books – pictures of everyday objects in primary colours).

We tried to encourage a love of books in little Lu since she was only a few months old. I wondered whether it was overly optimistic, or even a bit silly to be reading to a 4 month old about a hungry caterpillar with a penchant for junk food. There were a few times I questioned whether she knew books were for reading, not for eating. Sandra Boynton’s The Going-To-Bed Book bears testament to Lucy’s early (and unfortunately literal) appetite for literature. But after many nights filled with exaggerated voices and feigned excitement over sparkly stars and fluffy, kitten kisses, something must have stuck because the girl truly enjoys reading. Sometimes she pulls her books off the bottom shelf and flips the pages quietly and at other times, she is downright dramatic! I’ve even caught her reading aloud in a very officious manner from her daddy’s Book of Common Prayer. We’d volunteer her to read a few collects for Sunday liturgy if only we could figure out what the heck she was saying.

Tonight Lucy requested that we read one of her new favourites: The Runaway Bunny. It’s a children’s classic, written by the same woman who wrote Goodnight Moon. The story, if you haven’t read it, is essentially about a little bunny who dreams aloud to his mother about running away, but in every plan he proposes, his mother’s loving responses (that she will always run after and find him) remind him of the futility of his attempts. He imagines joining the circus, climbing a high mountain, sailing across the sea, all before realizing that he might as well just stay and be his mama’s little bunny. Hmm. I was thinking tonight about how I might explain why this little book, in its tender simplicity, touches me so deeply. How, in some way, it reminds me of the unrelenting love and compassion that we, people prone to wander, are shown by God. And here’s where film comes in…

A few years ago, Peter and I watched a movie, starring Emma Thompson, called Wit. Quickly, the movie is about a lonely professor, an expert on John Donne’s poetry, pondering the meaning of her life and death as her life is stolen by an aggressive cancer. There is a scene in the movie that features The Runaway Bunny that moved and still moves me to tears. I believe this scene captures the simple truth and beauty of this little book in a way I’m not able to. If you don’t mind having a bit of a cry tonight, take the time to watch this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eucAdWW-4HM

Crankiness isn’t a sin, is it?

I’ve been struggling with how to express this. I am a Christian. I have a real faith that, I believe and sincerely hope, defines and directs my life. However, I also have a prickly, sarcastic, slightly cynical edge at times. It is this tendency toward skepticism that I’ve long wondered about. Is it just incongruent (what the heck, spell check?) or is it possibly in outright conflict with living out a vibrant, effective faith? Do I need to just loosen up and smell some spiritual roses around here? Huh? Huh?

Here’s  a brief explanation of how this question plays out for me:

I read books, articles, blog posts about all manner of things, written by Christians and I get agitated. I don’t like a lot of the flowery, gushing statements I read. It bugs me when people use too many exclamatory statements about how awesome life is and how God is awesome and their kids and friends and spouses are awesome. All this awesomeness gets on my nerves.

Also, it feels, much of the time, like we think we have to be everybody’s cheerleader and we go over the top in our praise and appreciation, thus (in my mind anyway) lessening the value of what we say. We tell everybody that they’re gifted, talented, beautiful in every way, even when, let’s be honest, we’re kind of fibbing. Aren’t we?

It’s not our job as Christians to supply “warm fuzzies” and niceties. When we get caught up in doing so, it seems that we are at risk of watering down the truth, not because we don’t value it, but because we just want to be thought of as positive and agreeable. In other words, we just don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Jesus didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, did he? ;)

Writing this probably makes me sound like a crank. Considering that, is the fact that I feel so self-conscious about this reason enough to toss the attitude already? Am I just guilty of committing acts of snobbery cloaked as practicing discernment?

Enough navel-gazing already? Yikes, navel-gazing… what the heck has pregnancy done to mine? Eek! Obviously, it’s getting late. I’ll stop here.

Goodnight, y’all.

*A note of clarification – After reading this post, my husband had something very helpful to add and it may clarify what I’ve tried to articulate above.

What I’ve called the warm fuzzies and gushy statements may be better described as what I feel are more likely  flattery and empty praise, neither of which communicate true loving-kindness. In my kind husband’s words… “Loving-kindness” is based off a Hebrew word and as a characteristic is most commonly attributed to God, it does not seem to have stopped Him from speaking truthful hard things to His people. One thinks of verses from Jeremiah where false prophets are called for speaking of peace when there is none, or Paul’s admonishment in Ephesians to speak the truth in love. Yes, we inject grace in our speech and encouragement to others is important (all sorts of proverbs on this), but what you might point out is that our flowery language waters down our ability to offer any meaningful, truthful encouragement.”

Parenting and sacrifice – a package deal.

It’s 2:00 am, you’ve been sitting in the dark, in a rocking chair, rocking, rocking, rocking your baby, who looks, to the uneducated observer, asleep. You know this all a ruse. She is dozing still and you have a good 40 minutes to go before you can attempt another, gentle and graduated crib “drop”. Your butt is numb and you had to pee 30 minutes ago when you first stumbled out of bed, and now your ticking-time-bomb bladder is throbbing, but you don’t move. You don’t dare move. This baby owns you. You better believe this is not the last time you’ll be half-comatose, rocking in the dark tonight.

Sound familiar? If not, then kudos to you my friend, you’ve got something figured out that I certainly don’t. In moments like these, I wonder if the definition of the word “parenting” should be something like: the daily, often hourly practice of denial of self for the well-being of one’s offspring. A bit limited, I know, but have no fear, I am not about to pursue a career with Merriam-Webster’s.

I bring it up because I’ve noticed that, in my life, this practice of self-denial has some unexpected, negative results. For example, I often find myself feeling confused and panicked when I have a free moment away from my kid. Why? Because it feels so odd to have the option of doing what I want to do. Why can’t I remember what it is that I like to do?! I feel too uninspired to write, too wired to sleep, too out of practice to sew, too out of touch to engage in conversation…

A mom I know laughed as she told me she never knows what to do when the babysitter comes to watch her 3 kids, so she has spent the few hours she has away from them driving in circles, trying to decide where she should go and what she should do. I laughed along with her not because I find her situation sad and silly, but because I totally get it. Errand running at Target seems like too commonplace an option, all your friends are busy at work or with their own kids, and doing something practical like making a dentist appointment is an option (punishment?) too cruel to consider. And yet we consider it!

It seems too easy to unlearn how to do life outside of our family sphere. We struggle to find value in being; in being a person with needs for connection and creative and social outlets.The very constant responsibilities of caring for our children seem too ever-present.

Those are some of the negatives to this whole living and practicing self-denial thing. The positives, are many, really. As a parent you learn patience, perseverance, humility, gentleness and you will often make your best attempt at practicing self-control. I’m not saying I’ve mastered any of these, but I’m aware that all this self-sacrifice is schooling the selfish nature in me, big time. This is a painful, but strengthening process. I know that I am a stronger, wiser and bolder person because of the sacrifices and many joys (!) I’ve experienced in my limited time as a parent.

But I still wonder… I wonder about those negatives I mentioned above. What is the best way (besides prayer) to combat those feelings, those struggles? How do I hold on to (or maybe recapture?) my creative will and desire? How do I, for lack of a better, less ’90s phrase, “get my groove back”? I’m asking this question because I honestly don’t know what the answer is yet. Is this one of the other lessons we have to learn as parents? How do we nurture what is best about who we are, while also denying ourselves, over and over and over again? Am I the only one who feels a little frightened that I might just get lost altogether?

Poetry for the hard times. And all the other times too.

For my birthday, Pete presented me with an array of terrific little gifts: red roses, new moleskine notebooks, iTunes giftcard, tickets to a Civil Wars concert in October (okay, that’s not so little) and a book of poems compiled by none other than my Writer’s Almanac buddy, Garrison Keillor.

The book is Good Poems for Hard Times. Hard times? I felt a little a bit unsure about the title at first. What many of us go through, as North Americans, doesn’t seem all that bad.

Then I read Mr. Keillor’s fine introduction to the collection. Sigh. Great writing! And yeah, when I hear him tell it, things are bleak. Life is hard. People are struggling. Beauty is rare. Problems are many. What do we need in these dark, sad, ugly times? We need us some poetry, dang it.

No really. I think we do. It may sound to some as promising an antidote to misery as Skittles, but I really think Garrison’s got something here. He writes,

“Poetry is a necessity as simple as the need to be touched and similarly a need that is hard to enunciate. The intense vision and high spirits and moral grandeur are simply needed lest we drift through our days consumed by clothing options and hair styling and whether to have the soup or the salad. The meaning of poetry is to give courage…

… but what really matters about poetry and what distinguished poets from, say, fashion models or ad salesman is the miracle of incantation in rendering the gravity and grace and beauty of the ordinary world and thereby lending courage to strangers.”

He gets it right, doesn’t he? This quality of supplying or lending courage to and raising our spirits is what makes poetry unique. It can only take 10 well-written, passionate lines to speak truth and life into the most sorrowful or the most tired soul. Poetry can break your heart and piece it back together again in the length of a page.

So, you may ask, are these poems in Mr. Keillor’s collection really that good? Well, here’s one for you. You be the judge.

“A Poem for Emily” by Miller Williams

Small fact and fingers and farthest one from me,

a hand’s width and two generations away,

in this still present I am fifty-three.

You are not yet a full day.

 

When I am sixty-three, when you are ten,

and you are neither closer nor as far,

your arms will fill with what you know by then,

the arithmetic and love we do and are.

 

When I by blood and luck am eighty-six

and you are someplace else and thirty-three

believing in sex and god and politics

with children who look not at all like me,

 

sometime I know you will have read them this

so they will know I love them and say so

and love their mother. Child, whatever is

is always or never was. Long ago,

a day I watched awhile beside your bed,

I wrote this down, a thing that might be kept

awhile, to tell you what I would have said

when you were who knows what and I was dead

which is I stood and loved you while you slept.

Leaving on a jet plane… and everybody hates me.

Summer holidays! Family, sunburns, pools, lakes, fishing, campfires, tipped canoes, hideously large mosquitoes, BBQ!! All good things. All of these good things only realized, with our family at least, by traveling 2500 miles (Austin to Vancouver)! And then another 1500 miles (Vancouver to Whitehorse, Yukon)! And then… no, we’ll stop there.

Before having a child, there was still something sexy and glamorous about air travel. I could hit a good clip strutting to the departure gate with my shades on, ipod playing, and my newly purchased novel in hand. It felt cool to be on the move. Even if your final destination was Ottawa.

Now that I have a kid, flying has become a logistical nightmare. Do I check the stroller or leave it at the gate? Will she sleep? Will she poop? Did I bring enough diapers? How can I fit all this crap in my carry-on? Do I consider taking horse tranquilizer just to stop these crazy heart palpitations??!! You get the picture.

It really doesn’t help matters to add another unfortunate consideration into the mix: people on planes hate babies and kids. Or at least they wish you’d get your noisy f’in brat to shut up and sleep. Dramatic? Yes, yes, yes, but it’s close enough to the truth to bother posting about.

Just in time for summer holiday season, the Huffington Post published this funny and spot-on blog post by Devon Corneal about how everyone at the airport hates you when you’ve got little ones in tow. She gets it exactly right when she writes, “Believe me, we don’t want our children screaming either. However awful you think it is listening to a baby howl a few rows up, it is a thousand times worse for the parents. Not only are ear piercing cries louder when you’re the one holding the baby, but we know you hate us. We are embarrassed, harried and exhausted. We want it to stop. So give us a break, we’re not doing this to ruin your day. Instead of an eye-roll, how about some sympathy? Or a drink. Make mine a margarita.”

Ha! So true! Maybe that’s the part that stings the most: we don’t want y’all to hate on us! We also want our kid to sit still in our lap eating raisins without dropping them while the plane boards and then, magically and soundlessly sleep for the next 3 and a half hours. That’s not going to happen though. So, with this in mind, I have to agree with Devon that if someone’s seriously expecting a noise-free, cushy flying experience, they should probably invest in a private jet. Or, and this is my suggestion, they should stick the earbuds in, turn up the volume on the romantic comedy (on their dime, not mine) and just enjoy the ride.

Have you had your break today?

I’ve been reading way too many articles about what it takes to be a good parent; way too many books about how you can avoid screwing up your kids, which (duh!!) only serves to make you more paranoid. Leave me alone, people! Why do you tempt me with your promises of parenting perfection?! How can you smell my weakness?!

So I’m overreacting a bit, when I really should just limit the amount of time I spend obsessing over strangers’ opinions of how I should raise my child. Simple enough, right?

Well perhaps I’ll take a stab at the advice giving then. Here’s what I can, without any pretension of being an parenting expert, child-rearing guru or exceptionally well-adjusted human, offer up as advice to those battling it out in the parenting trenches:

Take a break and do something seemingly insignificant for yourself today. Watch a reality TV show. Eat a cookie. Make a list of the small necessities in your days and then make sure you’ve got ‘em handy when you’re about to pass out from exhaustion, exasperation, or both.

I’ll start my list here. To be flowery and silly and to sneak some alliteration in, I’ll call this list…

SHANNON’S SUNDRIES OF SIGNIFICANT IMPORT

  • The Writer’s Almanac – poems and juicy tidbits about writers offered up by this slightly pompous looking man, Garrison Keillor. Love his voice.
  • Pray as you Go – Meditative prayer MP3 downloads. Listen to it on the bus. Listen to it in your bed. Listen to it! You’ll feel better when you have.
  • Snowflake Tea (Coconut, almond infused tastiness in a cup. Thank you, Tea Embassy!) with a touch of honey and if I’m lucky and I’ve remembered to buy it, real cream!
  • A good handful of pitted, large kalamata olives.
  • Spotify – find a friggin’ awesome song and listen to it on repeat until you hate it. I suggest “Lights Out, Words Gone” by Bombay Bicycle Club
  • Nap, nap, nap. If you can get one, take it and luxuriate in it for the few seconds before you are dead to the world.
  • Ice cream! This is Texas, people! I can’t handle the weather and I need me some comfort!

Hmm… This is a good start at least. What’s on your list?